flanging 61

I took over as financial secretary of our local as soon as the new contract with Trinity was signed.  Harry S. asked me to take the position.  All of the old regime was out, except for Tom B., the vice-president who became president when Ollie B. resigned, and Dave C., the treasurer.  Harry was planning to run for president in the next election, and was assured to get it, so he wanted his own people in.  Why he wanted me is a good question.  He was the first shift inspector then, and knew me from turning down my heads.  I guess he trusted me.

I had to balance the local’s books.  It wasn’t too difficult.  I had taken a bookkeeping course in high school, and that pretty much covered what I had to do.  The company deducted monthly union dues from the employees and deposited them directly into a bank account.  We disbursed the funds for reasons such as arbitration fees (that went to the judge) and reimbursed expenses for the officers.  If an officer had to miss work because of union business, his wages were paid by the local.  As financial secretary that only happened to me once a year.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  The president went to Steelworkers conventions, which usually took place in Las Vegas, for some reason.  Las Vegas isn’t much of a steel town; you’d think they’d hold them in Pittsburgh or Gary, Indiana.  Also, committeemen were sent for training, to become better committeemen.  So that was the kind of things the local spent its money on.

Dave C. wrote out the checks.  That was the treasurer’s prime responsibility.  And getting the bank statement.  Each check had to be signed by him, me, and the president.  Three signatures had to be on every check issued.  It was a safeguard against fraud.  Dave and I worked together.  He kept a ledger of money coming into and going out of our account.  I kept a detailed record of all our expenses, which included receipts for everything.  Every month at the union meeting we’d compare ledgers.  They always agreed.  Dave told me I was the best financial secretary he’d ever worked with.

Now about that one time a year I missed work on union business.  Once a year I and Dave and the president went to a day-long meeting with auditors hired by the International union to go over the books of the locals.  Our local made estimated tax deposits quarterly, and once a year we filed a return.  Before we did this our books had to be right.  In theory, the auditors went over our numbers with calculators to make sure everything balanced.  The president usually spent the day at the bar – we met in a conference room of a restaurant or hotel.  Dave just sat there watching.  It was my ledger that had to be right, so I was the one involved with the auditor.  They were amazing.  Rarely did everything come out right.  I had entered a number in the wrong place, I had made a math mistake, yada yada yada.  The numbers hardly ever came out to their satisfaction.  They’d whip their pencils out and attack my ledger.  “Let’s enter this here, move this number over here, make this number that.”  You get the idea.  Their pencils were a blur as they erased and scribbled.  But in short order they were satisfied.  I and Dave and the president and the auditor signed off on it, then we ate dinner.  I did this seven times.  I was financial secretary from April of 1987 to February of 1994, and it never got easier.  I don’t care who the auditor was, they always found mistakes in my bookkeeping.  But at least I tried.  I remember one time this one financial secretary from another local came in and dropped his ledger down before the auditor and said, “What do I do?”  He had not touched his ledger all year.  It was blank.  I thought the auditor was going to cry.  But he got busy with the guy.  That day after we had finished our books and had eaten dinner and were getting ready to leave, that poor auditor and that financial secretary were still going at it.

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